Archive for the ‘Workers’ Compensation’ Category
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012
By Benjamin T. King
– New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
An employee’s ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for a disabling work injury often depends on the content of the employee’s medical records. If you neglect to tell your doctor that you were hurt at work, this innocent oversight could prove fatal to your workers’ compensation claim.
Doctors generally prepare detailed records of their visits with their patients. These records describe, among other things, the patient’s symptoms and the circumstances under which the patient states the injury occurred. If the employee states that the injury occurred at work, the doctor should note this in the patient’s records and should complete a New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form. If the patient neglects to tell the doctor that the injury occurred at work, the medical record will contain no evidence of the work-related nature of the injury, and no New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form will get completed.
The lack of any reference in the medical records to an employee’s injury having occurred at work can result in the employee being denied workers’ compensation benefits. In a recent New Hampshire Department of Labor decision, a hearing officer determined that an employee had failed to meet his burden to prove by competent medical evidence that his injury was work-related. The hearing officer therefore denied the employee workers’ compensation benefits. In that case, the medical records described the injury, but the records failed to note that the injury occurred at work.
Do not fall into this trap. Just be sure to tell your doctor that your injury happened at work. Ask your doctor to make sure to state that the injury occurred at work in the medical records. If your doctor does not complete a New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form, remind him or her to do so.
If you need assistance with your New Hampshire workers’ compensation claim, contact an experienced New Hampshire workers’ compensation attorney at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. or fill out our online contact form.
Monday, April 9th, 2012
For whatever reason, many injured workers harbor the mistaken belief that, once they begin receiving workers’ compensation disability benefits, they will receive them forever. This is not the case. There are several ways disability benefits may terminate. First, there is a 5-year cap on temporary partial disability benefits–the type of benefits that injured employees may receive if they have a light duty work capacity or if they are working a job that pays less than what they earned at the job in which they were injured. No such cap exists on temporary total disability benefits–the type of benefits injured employees receive if their injury renders them completely unable to work any job for which they are suited. Temporary total benefits may be suspended if a carrier schedules an employee for a medical examination and the employee fails to attend it. Such benefits may also be terminated through an RSA 281-A:48 petition filed by the carrier with the Department of Labor. When a carrier files such a petition, the Department of Labor holds a hearing attended by the employee and a carrier representative, usually an attorney. The carrier bears the burden to prove at the hearing that the employee has work capacity and that benefits should be discontinued. Benefits stop immediately if the Department finds that the carrier has met this burden.
Due to the risk of benefits being terminated, it makes sense under appropriate circumstances for employees to explore lump sum settling their claims. Disability benefits stop when the Department approves a lump sum settlement, but the employee can walk away with a sum of money to help to compensate for their injury and allow them to move on with life.
We can assist in negotiating a lump sum settlement and assessing your workers’ compensation rights. Benjamin King at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. is experienced in representing employees in workers’ compensation matters. Call us at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online Contact form.
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
When you treat with your doctor for a work-related injury, make sure your doctor completes the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form
! The Workers’ Compensation Medical Form is a New Hampshire Department of Labor form that asks the doctor to describe the employee’s injury, state whether the injury is work-related, and state what restrictions the injury imposes on the employee’s physical functioning. The form further requires the doctor to state whether the employee can work or whether the injury has disabled the employee from working.
Your doctor must complete the Workers’ Compensation Medical Form in order for you to receive the benefits that you should. You will not receive any workers’ compensation benefits without a form from your doctor certifying that the doctor believes you have suffered a work injury. You will not receive disability benefits without forms from your doctor stating the time periods during which your injury disabled you from work.
Even in cases where it is clear that an employee has suffered a disabling work-related injury, the doctor sometimes forgets to complete the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Medical Form. This omission can disqualify injured employees from receiving the benefits they should. If you are an injured employee, make sure your doctor completes the form so your entitlement to benefits is not jeopardized. If you have a work-related injury, give us a call at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out on online contact form to see if we can be of assistance.
Friday, June 24th, 2011
Filing a personal injury or workers’ compensation claim can be complicated and there are many different steps involved before the case is resolved. One of these steps may involve an examiner by a medical examiner, which is a doctor hired by the defendant’s insurance company. This is sometimes referred to as an “independent” medical examination but that is not accurate. Instead, this examination should be called a Defense Medical Examination.
It’s important to keep in mind that the medical examiner is NOT your doctor and they were hired to assist the defense in disproving your claim or minimizing the extent of your injuries. Given this fact, you should be prepared by your lawyer ahead of time and know what to expect before your appointment so that you don’t do anything that might hurt your case.
Here are a few suggestions:
Be concise when answering questions. When asked about your pain or symptoms, state them clearly and concisely. Rambling on may result in your saying the wrong thing, or mentioning something that may hurt your case in the long run. Keep it to the point and you will be fine.
Be polite and cooperative. There is no need to be hostile with the medical examiner, even though you know they are not on your side. Be as pleasant as you can and do as he or she asks. For example, if the doctor requests that you bend or twist, do so to the best of your ability but within your limits.
Avoid exaggeration. The medical examiner is looking for people who get carried away when describing their pain. Going overboard may make you appear to be dishonest or exaggerating will only hurt your case.
Know your condition and don’t minimize it. Although it’s good to be concise in your answers, you should also be sure not to leave out anything important when it involves your pain and symptoms. Be specific and accurate in your list of limitations and complaints so that everything important is properly documented.
Understand the details of your claim. The medical examiner may ask you specific questions about your case, like the date of the incident, the details of what happened, or the names of doctors you have consulted with. Know this information ahead of time so that you’re prepared and confident.
Try not to be emotional. Certainly the experience of being injured can be emotional, and dealing with the pain and suffering is upsetting. But try to stay as focused as possible when meeting with the medical examiner. Leaving the emotion out of it can make the visit go much more quickly and smoothly.
Be honest. If a medical attorney has agreed that you are, in fact, a victim, there should be no reason to lie or stretch the truth when visiting with an independent medical examiner. Doing so will only serve to hurt your case so remember to keep it honest.
These are just a few suggestions to help prepare you for this part of your case. An experienced personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney from Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, will sit down with you to discuss your concerns and answer any questions you may have before you go to the appointment. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can make a difference between a winning case or a loss. Call our office at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our contact form online.
Thursday, May 5th, 2011
If you have suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to permanent impairment compensation under New Hampshire statutory law, and you may pursue your permanent impairment award years after the injury occurred.<p>>
Most rights that New Hampshire workers’ compensation law confers on injured employees have expiration dates. This is true of most rights under the law. If you do not act to preserve your right within a specified time period, you lose the right.<p>
The permanent impairment award is the rare exception. Three (3) events must transpire for an injured employee to qualify for a permanent impairment award. First, the injured employee must reach maximum medical improvement with respect to his work-related injury. Second, the work injury must have caused the injured employee to suffer a permanent loss of use of the function of a body part. Third, a doctor must evaluate the percentage loss of use according to the methods prescribed by a publication of the American Medical Association called the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fifth Edition. Notably, New Hampshire Department of Labor regulations require that the carrier pay the doctor’s bill for evaluating the extent of impairment, if the employee has reached maximum medical improvement and has not previously undergone any medical evaluation for permanency.<p>
The amount of the permanent impairment award is determined by this mathematical formula: (Percentage loss of use as determined by the doctor) X (a certain number of weeks of disability benefits, which number depends on the affected body part) X (the injured employee’s compensation rate at the time of injury, which rate is equivalent to 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage).<p>
The Department of Labor must approve any permanent impairment award. If the workers’ compensation carrier disputes the extent of the award owing, or disputes whether any award is owing at all, the employee may request a hearing before the Department of Labor to resolve the dispute. The carrier will be represented by an attorney through this process, so the employee should be represented as well.<p>
Unsurprisingly, carriers do not bend over backwards to inform injured employees of their potential rights to permanent impairment compensation. But, unlike most other rights under the law, there is no expiration date on the right to this compensation. If you have suffered a work injury that may have had some permanent impact on you, and you have not received a permanent impairment award, you should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney such as Benjamin King, Esquire, at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. to discuss pursuing the compensation to which you may be entitled. Call the office or fill our on-online contact form.
Sunday, May 1st, 2011
If you suffer a compensable work-related injury, the workers’ compensation carrier must pay the medical bills for all treatment that is reasonable and related to the injury. There is no time limit on this obligation. For so long as the treatment is deemed to be reasonable and related to the injury, the carrier must pay the bills.
Carriers will often try to evade this obligation, however, by arbitrarily denying medical bills. If the injured employee does nothing in response to this, the carrier will get away with not paying the bill. Don’t let the carrier get away with this!
If you are an injured employee, and your workers’ compensation carrier denies a bill for treatment that your medical providers believe is reasonable and related to your work injury, you should appeal the denial to the New Hampshire Department of Labor within 18 months of the date the carrier denies the bill.
You should enlist the aid of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you find yourself having to appeal the denial of a medical bill. The attorney will not charge you anything to represent you on a medical bill issue before the Department of Labor. How does the attorney get paid? If the attorney prevails for you, and obtains a Department of Labor Order requiring the carrier to pay the disputed bills, the carrier must pay your attorney’s fees. The carrier must also pay the injured employee’s attorney’s fees if the carrier denies a bill, forcing an employee to request a Department of Labor hearing, and then reverses its position and accepts the bill fewer than seven (7) business days before the hearing date. This new provision in the law, which became effective January 1, 2011, is designed to discourage workers’ compensation carriers from “playing games” with an injured employee’s medical bills.
Some carriers try to avoid their obligation to pay medical bills by ignoring them. Instead of issuing denial letters, they simply do nothing. Carriers break the law when they ignore medical bills. New Hampshire law requires carriers to either accept or deny medical bills within 30 days of receiving them. Specifically, within 30 days of receiving a medical bill the carrier must either a.) pay the bill; or b.) deny the payment, with notice to the health care provider, the injured employee, and the Department of Labor. A denial letter must state a valid reason for the denial and must advise the injured employee of the right to petition for a hearing.
If your carrier ignores your medical bills, failing to pay them or properly deny them within 30 days, you or your attorney should notify the Department of Labor so that the Department may take appropriate enforcement action. Call Douglas, Leonard & Garvey or fill out our contact form if you are having problems getting your medical bills paid.
Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
If you have suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to permanent impairment compensation under New Hampshire statutory law, and you may pursue your permanent impairment award years after the injury occurred.
Most rights that New Hampshire workers’ compensation law confers on injured employees have expiration dates. This is true of most rights under the law. If you do not act to preserve your right within a specified time period, you lose the right.
The permanent impairment award is the rare exception. Three (3) events must transpire for an injured employee to qualify for a permanent impairment award. First, the injured employee must reach maximum medical improvement with respect to his work-related injury. Second, the work injury must have caused the injured employee to suffer a permanent loss of use of the function of a body part. Third, a doctor must evaluate the percentage loss of use according to the methods prescribed by a publication of the American Medical Association called the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fifth Edition. Notably, New Hampshire Department of Labor regulations require that the carrier pay the doctor’s bill for evaluating the extent of impairment, if the employee has reached maximum medical improvement and has not previously undergone any medical evaluation for permanency.
The amount of the permanent impairment award is determined by this mathematical formula: (Percentage loss of use as determined by the doctor) X (a certain number of weeks of disability benefits, which number depends on the affected body part) X (the injured employee’s compensation rate at the time of injury, which rate is equivalent to 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage).
The Department of Labor must approve any permanent impairment award. If the workers’ compensation carrier disputes the extent of the award owing, or disputes whether any award is owing at all, the employee may request a hearing before the Department of Labor to resolve the dispute. The carrier will be represented by an attorney through this process, so the employee should be represented as well.
Unsurprisingly, carriers do not bend over backwards to inform injured employees of their potential rights to permanent impairment compensation. But, unlike most other rights under the law, there is no expiration date on the right to this compensation. If you have suffered a work injury that may have had some permanent impact on you, and you have not received a permanent impairment award, you should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney such as Benjamin King, Esquire, at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. to discuss pursuing the compensation to which you may be entitled.
Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
Several attorneys filed suit against the State recently to try to obtain proper funding for our judicial system. It is broken and I could not sit idly by and let it be gutted by excessive legislative budget cuts so I joined in as counsel.
Each year 230,000 court cases are filed in New Hampshire.
Certain types of court cases have specific time frames in which to act and those are set by the legislature. For example, domestic violence cases and criminal cases require certain scheduling dates by law. Thus, work on such cases means other cases must be delayed if judge time is lacking due to vacancies. For instance, in 2009, there were 5,300 cases of domestic violence with hearings required between five or thirty days of filing, depending on the request.
Stalking cases were 1,470 in number, with the same time requirements. 9,600 landlord/tenant cases must be heard ten days from service of process. Involuntary emergency admissions to the N.H. Hospital were filed 1,700 times last year and they must be heard within three days of hospitalization.
Families are also heavily affected by the lack of a judge to help decide their disputes. 7,200 juvenile cases, 10,000 new divorce or family petitions and 7,000 closed cases reopened for parenting or lack of child support issues were heard last year alone.
Judges cannot decide cases without someone processing them, scheduling them, getting orders out, and otherwise processing paperwork. Each month thousands of orders have to go to the office of child support enforcement, various criminal law agencies, and to parties involved in marital and civil cases.
In the non-criminal area our State Constitution’s Bill of Rights (Part I, Article 14), says that everyone is entitled to a certain remedy for all injuries they may receive and that they are to obtain it “completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay.”
The purpose of that provision is to make civil remedies readily available and to guard against arbitrary denial of access to the courts. It is an equal protection clause because, whether you are suing someone or being sued, you want to have your case resolved as soon as possible.
Last year there were $3.1 million of cuts out of a judicial branch budget of about $65 million, with another $2.2 million hit in May. Concord District Court, which is a three-judge court, is now operating with one full-time judge. Due to the reduction in personnel a form letter went out this summer canceling all civil trials.
Small claims cases were all cancelled in the Manchester District Court this summer for an indefinite period.
On July 22, Merrimack County Superior Court began closing to the public daily from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. As of June 30, it had nearly 500 case files with pieces of mail that had yet to be docketed in the court record, with some documents dating back to March. Another 150 trial and hearing notices had not been sent out and more than 350 files contained court orders that had not been issued.
And Hillsborough County just announced:
HILLSBOROUGH SUPERIOR COURT CLERKS TO CLOSE OFFICES
TUESDAY AND THURSDAY AFTERNOONS
Staff shortages prompt move to focus on reduction of case backlog
CONCORD, October 1 – The clerk’s office in Nashua for Hillsborough County Superior Court North and Hillsborough County Superior Court South will close at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday beginning October 5 to allow uninterrupted time for processing cases and related materials.
Both clerk’s offices, which had been closed from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., will reopen at 8 a.m. daily, beginning Oct. 5 with implementation of the new Tuesday/Thursday afternoon closings.
After 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, no telephone or counter service will be available to lawyers, litigants or the public in the clerk’s office during those hours; the automated telephone system will be monitored so that emergency requests are addressed promptly. A “drop box” will be set up inside the courthouse at 30 Spring Street in Nashua for filing documents during the hours when the clerk’s office is closed.
As of today, the Merrimack County Superior Court, which had been closed down since last August on weekday afternoons to work on reducing the case backlog, will be open for a full day on Fridays. The clerk’s office in Concord remains closed to lawyers, litigants and the public Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for uninterrupted case processing.
Several other court locations statewide, faced with backlogs and staff shortages, also have limited public operating hours to allow uninterrupted time for employees to process cases.
Superior Court Chief Justice Robert J. Lynn said the schedule will be reviewed every 30 days to determine when the clerk’s office can return to routine office hours. Reductions in the court system budget have required administrators to maintain 71 full-time non-judicial vacancies, which means court locations have fewer employees on staff to carry out day to day clerical responsibilities.
These cutbacks affect all citizens who seek justice. I will do all I can to fight for fair funding. If you have a delay horror story, email me at email@example.com
Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
If you are contemplating a lawsuit, or perhaps just filed one, you have probably heard that the court requires the parties to “mediate” the case. What is mediation, and is it something you want to take part in?
Mediation is a type of “alternative dispute resolution.” Simply put, it is a formalized method by which you attempt to settle your lawsuit before going to trial. It is often confused by lawpersons with arbitration, which is an alternative form of trial judges rather than an actual judge and jury.
How does a mediation work? Typically the parties agree on a mediator as the first step. The mediator is typically an attorney or retired judge. The choice of mediator is very important. An inexperienced or unmotivated mediator will not be effective in driving the mediation process to a successful resolution. Experienced trial attorneys will know the right mediator for the case, and will insist on using the right mediator in your case.
Once the mediator is selected, the mediator process typically begins by having all the parties meet and their representatives meet in one room. The lawyers for the parties typically give a presentation of what they believe the evidence will demonstrate at trial, and try to highlight the strengths of their case, and the weaknesses of the other side’s case. It is not uncommon for the plaintiff to explain how the defendant’s conduct has personally impacted him or her, and also not uncommon for the mediator to ask questions of both sides to help clarify certain points and potentially to highlight key issues in the case which parties may not have fully appreciated before the medication begins.
At that point, the parties typically separate and go into different rooms. It is at this point that the plaintiff makes a demand for a certain amount of money (which is typically much higher than what their attorney ahs told them to expect as an end result) and the defendant makes an offer to pay the plaintiff a certain amount (almost always much lower than what they actually expect to pay) of money to dismiss the case. The mediator then goes back and forth between the rooms in a process of “shuttle diplomacy.”
During each visit with the mediator, the parties discuss the amount of their demand or offer the settle, and the strengths and weaknesses highlighted by the other side. The goal is to keep reducing the plaintiff’s demand, and increasing the defendant’s offer, until they meet at some point. If they meet, then the case is settled. If the defendant is unwilling to pay the lowest amount the plaintiff is willing to accept to settle the case, then the mediation will end and the parties effectively pretend it never happened.
In a successful mediation, the parties decide the outcomes of the case, rather than allowing a third party to do it for them. If the mediation fails, then the parties simply proceed to trial, and treat the mediation as if it never happened. The jury never hears about what happened at the mediation. Everything that happens at the mediation is kept strictly confidential, to encourage the parties to be open and honest about their case and make the best effort possible to resolve it.
Successful mediations depend tremendously on the skill and experience of the parties’ counsel and the mediator. Picking the right mediator is crucial, but having the right attorney is even more important. An experienced trial attorney will have the experience to value your case, and to make the most effective use of the mediation process to get the other side to pay the most money they are willing to offer, and not take the risk of undervaluing your case.
Considering that most cases settle before trial, and many of those settle in mediations, it is important to choose the right attorney to handle your case in order to ensure your case is worked to get you the full compensation you deserve.
Thursday, August 12th, 2010
Budget cuts have left the entire court system in New Hampshire at a dangerous point that is hurting victims. Because state budget cuts have eliminated judges and court staff, jury trials have been cancelled and cases take longer to move through the system. For example, this means civil (non-criminal) cases by a patient harmed by medical malpractice or an accident victim seeking compensation won’t have a jury trial for more than a year.
The elimination of civil jury trials benefits insurance companies. And it doubly impacts those people injured because they have to wait for their day in court – a year or two sometimes – and defendants, like insurance companies, are less inclined to offer reasonable settlements with no trial scheduled. It is common for insurance companies to try and settle claims with the pressure of facing a jury trial. Without facing a jury trial, insurance companies are in a position to make unreasonably “low” offers.
Justice is not being done when victims of an auto accident, a wrongful death, medical malpractice or employment discrimination are compelled to accept “low” settlement offers. Insurance companies will take advantage of the cancellation of civil jury trials.